September 7th Elizabeth Thomas Carne (Birth)

Elizabeth Catherine Thomas Carne (1817–1873) was a writer, geologist & mineralogist, banker and philanthropist.

Born in Phillack, the fifth child of daughter of the Penzance banker, Carne was the fifth child of the eight children  of  Joseph Carne, FRS, (October 12th) and his wife, Mary Thomas.  She became fascinated by science due to the smelting and geological laboratories in the basement of her early-childhood home (Rivière House), which had been established by her father and had been visited by Davies Gilbert, PRS, (March 6th) and Sir Humphry Davy, FRS, (May 29th).

Unusually highly educated, for a woman of her times, Carne studied classics, mathematics and was fluent in French and Italian.  She was brought up at the family’s townhouse in Chapel Street, Penzance, when her father returned the family to Penzance and she was a close friend of the Quaker diarist and founder of the Falmouth Polytechnic Society, Caroline Fox (May 24th)

Although born into a wealthy, Methodist, family Carne was acutely aware of the poverty of the ordinary people in West Cornwall and advocated education and social support.  Inheriting considerable wealth from her father, she used a substantial part of her legacy to fund four elementary schools in Penzance and paid for the land for the Penzance Public Buildings now known as St. John’s Hall (April 27th)

Following her father’s death, she ran the bank, Batten, Carne and Oxnam, which had been founded by her grandfather, William Carne, in 1795, again another rare event for a woman of her times.

Carne wrote four papers for the ‘Royal Geological Society of Cornwall’ ‘Cliff Boulders and the Former Condition of the Land and Sea in the Land's End district’, ‘The Age of the Maritime Alps surrounding Mentone’,  ‘On the Transition and Metamorphosis of Rocks’ and ‘On the Nature of the Forces that have acted on the Formation of the Land's End Granite’ and she was the first woman to be elected to membership of  The Royal Geological Society of Cornwall’ (February 11th).

Carne also contributed many articles to the ‘London Quarterly Review’, and she was the author of several books and pamphlets including ‘Three months' rest at Pau in the winter and spring of 1859’ under the pseudonym John Altrayd Wittitterly in 1860, ‘Country Towns and the place they fill in Modern Civilisation’ (1868) and anonymously, ‘England’s Three Wants’ (1871) and ‘The Realm of Truth’ (1873).




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